I find that there are basically two schools of Mozart playing. I call the first the “modern” school. This group approaches the modern piano on its own terms. The result is that the articulations and small melodic groupings written by Mozart for the fortepiano of his day are adapted as longer and more lyrical melodic lines on the modern piano. The idea is that the modern piano can’t accurately depict the effect Mozart intended, and that if Mozart had had a modern piano, he would have likely written it differently anyway. A second “learned” school has come to the fore in recent years, led by a group more “scholarly” musicians such as Paul Badura-Skoda and Malcolm Bilson, who feel that to change the original articulations and inflections loses much of the gesture and rhetorical character the classicists strived for. Many of these artists now play on period instruments so as to avoid the compromises demanded by modern instruments. Jill Crossland was a student of Badura-Skoda, but she chooses a modern Steinway for this recording. Still she shows much of the thoughtful concern over details the “learned” school values so highly.
One consequence of playing the modern piano with a “learned” approach is that tempos sometimes need to be slower; otherwise, smaller gestures get washed over by the sound of the modern piano. I say this so that listeners won’t be startled at some of the slow tempos this artist chooses, especially in the Mozart last movement. In the Tempest Sonata also (17), where it could be argued that the adaptation issue isn’t as much of a concern, she takes a shockingly slower tempo than many listeners will expect. It is such a slow tempo, with such a delicate touch, that I thought I could have been waltzing in a light shower rather than surviving a storm. ***
The sound of the piano is not particularly rich or pleasing. I found myself praising the pianist’s sincerity and attention to detail but at the same time lamenting the loss of much of the drama, angst, and momentum of the Beethoven works.
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